When the tech leadership of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) called CDW, their need seemed straightforward: with the lease for their on-premises datacenter expiring and the building slotted for demolition, it was the ideal time to free themselves from hardware and migrate their operations to the AWS Cloud. But the reality was more complicated. With a history of being the top business press in the world, serving multiple global audiences, HBR had a reputation to maintain. HBR’s non-technical stakeholders were satisfied with their current on-premises setup and worried about the potential impact to user satisfaction and brand reputation with such a significant shift. 


The challenge

CDW’s task was twofold: move an entire datacenter to the cloud before the building was closed for demolition and prove to academic stakeholders that the AWS Cloud could not only provide the same positive experience for the end user — but could improve it. HBR leadership had considered relocating to Harvard’s central datacenter, but there was no physical space in that location to accommodate HBR’s machines.  


The solution

CDW was chosen for their deep technical experience migrating organizations to the AWS Cloud, but our background in organizational change management was needed first. HBR’s application portfolio was comprised of several primary apps, each with a different owner — and only a few of these stakeholders were convinced that migrating to the cloud was the best option. To get all the stakeholders to buy into the project, the CDW team first needed to make a critical business strategy case: not only was the demolition forcing the change, but the AWS Cloud was the best choice to take HBR’s operations to the next level. The stakeholders wanted to know that migrating to the AWS Cloud would also enhance HBR’s operations from a business perspective — and uphold their reputation of excellence. CDW achieved stakeholder buy-in by showing them that the AWS Cloud would be a business force multiplier in:

  • Security
    An on-premises datacenter relies on a physical perimeter that requires constant defending—and is always one human error away from being breached.
  • Performance and Availability
    CDW showed them how their system would run 10-20% more efficiently in the new AWS environment
  • Modular Scalability
    A move to the cloud let HBR build its platform in a more scalable, plug-and-play fashion. In the AWS environment, it is no longer necessary to reconstruct an entire application from scratch.

Timing was an enormous challenge in this engagement. Although the timeline for the migration was less than a year, HBR’s global presence made it incredibly difficult to schedule the downtime needed for the migration. The organization digitally operates in multiple locales and languages, meaning its systems are in constant use.



The move to the cloud not only saved HBR up to 15% of their prior annual IT costs, but it also provided the organization with greater flexibility and scalability, making them more competitive in a crowded digital education marketplace where change is constant. Most importantly, HBR’s cloud transformation allowed the organization to maintain its mission of providing top business insights to customers around the world — without disruption to its many users.

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